It’s not exactly *breaking news* that we should all have a Will – though given the current panic, you’d think it was!
By now, most of us will know someone who hasn’t made it through the current Covid-19 pandemic – and hopefully they would have left a valid Will to look after those left behind.
It can be a cruel world, and none of us knows for certain when we’ll be leaving it. So, of course, that brings to mind your own testamentary disposition, that is – are you happy with your Will? Have you even got one? And if you haven’t, how do you create a valid Will if you can’t find the witnesses you need, that is witnesses who are not beneficiaries?
Making your Will – your options
Let’s have a look at the ways you can write a valid Will these days:
1 – Writing your own Will
Technically, you can write a Will yourself.
This is obviously the cheapest way to proceed – you can buy a template for about £10, and if you write it properly your assets will go to the correct beneficiaries. But that’s quite a big ‘if’ …
Unless your Will is very simple and you are used to the process of Will-writing, there are huge mistakes to be made. If you do make mistakes and your Will is incorrectly drafted relying on what can be deemed to be assumptions, then the court may be brought in to interpret its meaning. If your Will is not signed properly it will not be valid, and your assets will pass under the Rules of Intestacy instead.
You can read our article about the Rules of Intestacy here.
A professionally-drafted Will takes account of Inheritance Tax (IHT), and a home-made Will made without the right advice will potentially cost your beneficiaries unnecessary IHT.
You also have to make sure everyone knows where to find your home-made Will in the event of your death. So writing your own Will, though cheap, can have unintended consequences for those you leave behind you.
If you are still unsure, read our article about home-made Wills here.
2 – Using a professional Will writer
You can also use a professional Will writer to help you. They are used to the language of Wills, and your Will should fit in with your wishes.
Will writers can offer their services entirely online, asking you to fill in details such as who your executors should be, who should be appointed guardian if you have children under the age of 18, details of your beneficiaries and percentages they will receive, any gifts you wish to leave, details of anyone you wish to be excluded, as well as funeral requests.
The price will vary depending on the complexity of your Will, and if you want your Will to be stored, it will often cost you a minimum of £15 per year.
The biggest issue with professional Will writers is that they are not qualified, and are not regulated. Anyone can set themselves up as a Will writer without any professional legal training, and their trade body is self-regulating – so you are not protected if anything goes wrong.
Professional Will-writers are sometimes cheaper than option 3, though this may not be true once you’ve added in the cost of secure storage of your Will.
3 – Using a solicitor who specialises in Will-writing
Of course, the best way of writing your Will and ensuring that it does what you want it to do and is valid, is by using a Wills and Probate specialist solicitor. As well as having a professionally drafted Will in accordance with your wishes, you will also have the security of knowing that your Will is stored – often free of charge – in the firm’s strong room. This means that using a solicitor to write your Will is often cheaper than using a non-legally-trained Will-writer.
There is also the reassurance that a solicitor is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), and all Solicitors are required to have indemnity insurance.
How can my Will be correctly witnessed if I am in isolation?
This is quite a worry, as anyone who has read sufficient crime novels will know that a valid Will needs to be correctly witnessed.
The government has looked into this as regards England and Wales, and you can use an existing process to ensure that your Will can be validated if you are in isolation. Read our post about this here.
The Wills and Probate Department at Cunningtons LLP Solicitors has this to add:
“We want you to be assured that we are here for you and although we cannot see you face to face, we are at the end of the telephone or email.
“If we can assure ourselves that there is no undue influence and you have the requisite mental capacity to make a Will, we will take your instructions electronically, by way of a mixture of email, telephone and electronic face-to-face communications and provide you with a draft copy of your Will within 7 days of receiving instructions. So if you would like your Will drafted, please do not hesitate to contact us.“
What do I need to consider when writing my Will?
When you are planning to make – or update! – your Will, there are some points that you need to consider first:
Who are your beneficiaries?
It is important that this information is kept up-to-date! People are born, they die, they get married, they move house – you should undertake a regular review to make sure your wishes are current, and that it won’t take too long to locate any beneficiaries.
What assets do you hold?
You need to make a note of all your assets, as well as how to get hold of them. Otherwise the job of discovering the whereabouts of all your assets is left to your executors, who will probably be family members or friends – they’ll have enough to deal with, with the grief at your passing.
You should list items such as property, cars, paintings and jewellery as well as stocks and bank accounts.
What do you owe?
Your Will also needs to take account of your debts, as they must be settled before anyone can inherit. This includes mortgage, credit and store cards, student and personal loans, as well as any outstanding taxes due.
Who should be your executor(s)?
Who do you want to manage the business of winding up and distributing your Will? Acting as the Executor of a Will is a very responsible task, and if it is mishandled the consequences can be momentous.
Who do you trust to be guardians for your children?
This is something else you need to cover in your Will if you have children who are minors. You should think about this very carefully, and check with whoever you have chosen that they are happy to fulfil this role.
It might also be a good idea to organise a trust to safeguard your children’s inheritance.
Is there anything else to consider?
If you embark on the process of writing a will with a solicitor, they will run through all the issues that need attention in a Will – this often also includes gifts to charity and funeral wishes. As a professional Wills and Probate practitioner, your solicitor will have plenty of experience with people’s testamentary dispositions.
I want to write my Will now. Where do I start?
As we hope you agree, this is not the time to reach out to unregulated and unqualified online Will writers to draft your Will, even if you are panicking in the face of the pandemic.
To engage a professional Will-writing solicitor, simply go to our Making a Will page, and click on the Download a Simple Will Form button, print and complete the form. Instructions on how to send it to us and make your payment are at the end of the form.
If you feel your Will has additional complexity, or if you wish to discuss the matter further, please feel free to contact us by phone or email and we will be pleased to help.